Confidential to America: Newspaper advice columns and sexual education

David Gudelunas, University of Pennsylvania


The available venues for public discourse concerning sexuality in America can be separated into two broad categories. The first is formal curricula, represented most notably by “official” school- and community-based sexual education programs. The second is informal curricula, particularly the mass media. This dissertation proposes to examine one of the most widely available (and popular) sites of convergence of these two venues: the newspaper advice column. By offering a historical analysis of the cultural reluctance to, and indeed prohibitions on, speaking openly about matters pertaining to sexuality in America, and the traditional lack of venues for this type of discourse, the newspaper advice column is situated as a critical site for learning about, discussing and debating issues of sexuality. The newspaper advice column is argued to be one of the most widely available forums for “sexual education” that includes topics of marriage, dating, relationship patterns, sexual practices and sexual orientation.

Subject Area

Mass media|Journalism|American studies

Recommended Citation

Gudelunas, David, "Confidential to America: Newspaper advice columns and sexual education" (2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3138015.